Skip to main content

Anti-Procrastination Tips

An Academic Writing Club member recently posted these anti-procrastination techniques on the message board.

Here are the tips I try to use to get myself to work:

1) WARM UP ROUTINE -- Instead of starting with email, news sites, or any of the other things that I find lead to hours of procrastination ... I try to have a "prep time" for writing as warm up:

  • I put on the same mix cd each time I write (mental cue)
  • Open the diss chapter (NOTHING ELSE except EndNote -- Close email and web browser)
  • Then clean off my desk
  • Warm up my coffee
  • Set the kitchen timer for the min. amount of time I want to write
  • Finally -- And this may sound quite odd, I light a prayer candle (I use the Virgin of Guadalupe, because I have deemed her patron saint of anthropologists, given the role she played in colonization and the Catholic church's stance on indigenous Mexicans). Although I am not really religious -- I say a little prayer (a mantra would be good to) to just write something, regardless of whether or not it is good. Then I write.

I find if I get the ball rolling with this routine, it really helps me to actually write.

2) WHY AM I PROCRASTINATING? At the same time, since Friday was a complete loss, I am trying to be more mindful of what I am feeling (or rather, what precisely I am anxious about) when I am avoiding work. If I allow myself to be aware of what I am feeling, I find I can combat it more easily.

3) REWARD CHART See Gina's newsletter this month I give myself points for writing before a certain time, writing a second session, writing a certain length of time. Also, because my problem is too much time, too few outside responsibilities, and isolation from virtually ALL of society -- I give myself points for doing other things, too .... Racking up the points makes me feel good and then I give myself weekly rewards for getting certain levels of points.

4) JUST 10 MINUTES Jayne [Writing Club coach] has a good point about just 10 min ... I find when I completely miss a day the next day is less productive, too. If at least sit down for 15 min, I do better. Likewise, I also will procrastinate until midnight ... and whatever time I spend then isn't as productive, and still makes me feel guilty for wasting the day when I could have done 30 min in the am & had a great day.

5) DRESS FOR WORK Sometimes I find it helps me if I get out of my pajamas, shower, and put on the type of clothes I would wear to campus for a talk or to teach. It gives me the mindset of "going to work" as a professional.

6) BOOK COVER MOCK UP In my case, the goal for my dissertation is to then publish it as my first book ... I made a little mock up of the "book cover" just in Word with clip art -- Printed that out and have it hanging above my desk. A friend of mine who is a screen writer, prints and frames the title page of his scripts before he begins working -- A visual reminder of the end product to get beyond the tedium. I try and take the time to look at the book cover & visualize being at the point where I'll have that friggin book in hand with my name on the cover!

I don't know if any of this will help ...or if sound like a nut case ... but those are my little mind tricks ...when I use them (!), they make a difference.


  1. Anonymous2:43 AM

    Thanks. You've given me some stuff to think about.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over. If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome.  Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic.  This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energy Make you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduate Make you feel like you have nothing more to g

"ABD" -- what does it really mean?

I thought I knew what the definition of ABD was. It was exactly the same as defined here in Carnegie Mellon's University Doctoral Candidate Policies for All But Dissertation (ABD) : After the completion of all formal degree requirements other than the completion of and approval of the doctoral dissertation and the public final examination, doctoral candidates shall be regarded as All But Dissertation(ABD). I have, though, occasionally run into the term ABD being used as a somewhat disparaging designation for one who fulfills the formal degree requirements of the Ph.D. but never finishes the dissertation, and then quits the program. Most recently, I saw it in What They Didn' t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career , by Paul Gray and David E. Drew. Number 9 of their helpful hints is one that I strongly agree with: "Remember that a Ph.D. is primarily an indication of survivorship." They go on to say, "You stuck wi

The Second Holiday Writing Challenge for Academics

Here's a little boost for those who need a little kickstart to write over the holidays.  I first offered a Holiday Writing Challenge  back in 2005, so I'd say it's about time to do it again. Here's what you do: Post in the comment section: what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily . Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadline pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done! Whether you're a professor or a grad student, make sure you get a copy of the Dissertation Toolkit.  These tools will give you more information and tips for productive and creative writing.  For those of you who have had trouble making yourself write, you may want to start with VERY short writing goals . Even 5 or 10 minutes will be enough to get you jumpstarted.  Don't go more than 25 or 30 minutes withou